I have met a lot of writers who have never written anything before, but are working on or want to write a book. I usually try to discouraged that as a first project. You certainly can start with a book, and many people do, but I feel every writer can benefit by writing for periodicals first. There is so much about writing that you can only learn by writing—and writing in a number of different areas. Working your way through a lot of stories or articles prepares you for writing that book in several different ways.
First, it polishes your writing skills. You learn how to get the words on paper; how to write tightly; refresh your technical skills in grammar, punctuation, and spelling; and develop your own voice and writing style. Many first books show obvious lack in some of these areas. Many of the writers I know who have started with a book, often regret it later, wishing they could go back and rewrite it with the skills they have learned in the time since.
Starting with articles has another benefit most people aren’t aware of—it can help you establish your credibility in a certain field or with a particular topic. As a writer, you want to become known in your field of interest, both by the readers and by the editors who will publish your material. If you are published regularly in connection with a particular topic or type of writing, you will start to develop a reputation among those readers and editors. As a writer, one of our goals is to become so well known in a certain topic area that the editors start coming to us with assignments when they need something in that area. If you never establish that reputation, you will never get on anyone’s assignment list. The same is true for types of writing, such as feature articles, historical material, humor, marriage or family topics, material for children or teens, Bible studies, etc.
Once you have established that reputation, you will have a better chance of selling that book. Being published frequently in the topic or type of writing establishes you as an “expert,” even if you don’t have formal credentials or a college diploma in your area of expertise. The publishing credits alone become your degree and badge of authenticity.
For example, after 20 years experience in Christian education, I started writing regularly for every Christian education periodical, then later wrote 7 books in the field of Christian education. Did I have a degree in Christian education? No! Did anyone ever ask me if I did? No! Because I had established myself as an expert by being published regularly in the field. You can do the same in your area of expertise or interest.